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Vol. 9 The Journal of Social Policy and Labor Studies (Shakai-seisaku Gakkai shi)


HOME > PUBLICATIONS > Early Journals > The Journal of Social Policy and Labor Studies (Shakai-seisaku Gakkai shi) (1999-2007)

The Changing Pattern of Employment

Toward New Understanding of Employment Relationship

Tateshi MORI

This article tries to trace one aspect of changes taking place in the employment system by proposing a new understanding of employment.  Contrary to the commonly accepted view that in the typical employment a worker offers a certain amount of work in a fixed time, we assume that workers are under the control of employers even when they are not engaged in work.  The work of domestic servants is the most representative of all-day control by employers.  Even factory and office workers whose working time is defined in employment handbooks are under control of their companies in their leisure time.  They are not allowed to work for other employers and bound to obey company rules such as those concerning trade secrets when they are not occupied with their work.  Let us name this type of employment as all-day employment.  The work of day laborers is quite different from domestic servants and company employees in that they are committed to employers only for a limited time in a day.  Their work will be classified as limited time employment in contrast to all-day employment.

The new type of working style found among managers and engineers whose working time is not clearly defined will be regarded as a developed type of all-day employment.  They are rather free in choosing their working time but expected to work any time once they have to do.  While all-day employment increases its importance in a managerial hierarchy to such extent that the traditional personnel device of time control has almost lost its weight in the management of managers, quite different type of employment which imposes rather strict time control upon workers has increased in number.  Part-time work is a case in point.  They are close to day laborers in accepting strict time control but different from laborers in terms of continuity in their current job. And contemporary factory workers who are also under stricter time control nowadays become much more like part-timers in terms of limited working time.  In place of the age-old two tier strata system of labor market consisting of factory/office workers on the one hand and laborers on the other, we now have a new combination of managers/engineers in all-day employment and factory workers/part-timers in limited time employment.

New juxtaposition of all-day employment and limited time employment might be caused by the fact that when one members of a family is engaged in all-day employment quite often other members are forced to limit their work time in order to allocate certain amount of their time to household activities.  But in case where both husband and wife are engaged in all-day employment, they sometimes think it difficult to find some time to perform household activities such as taking care of their parents.  With the increasing competition among companies putting more stress on responsibilities of managers, all-day employment aggravates difficulties in attaining the compatibility of work and family.



Part-timers as “core” workers in Japan


Many part-time workers were substituted for full-time workers (“sei-shain”) in the second half of 1990s.  Our research in restaurant industry in 2001 shows that there is a distinction between full-time and part-time jobs; but, in some shops, important and difficult jobs, for example semi-management jobs, are done by part-time workers.

The difference in treatment between “sei-shain” and pert-time workers has become a crucial issue.  In 1999, about 30 percent of firms had a system in which part-time workers could be upgraded (or promoted) to full-time “sei-shain” status.   But, many part-time workers do not want to work full-time even if they are doing important work.  I would therefore propose to introduce the job title “tanjikan sei-shain” (regular part-timer) to the personnel system.   According to a survey in 2001, not only part-timers but also full-time workers want to become “tanjikan sei-shain”. Moreover, more women want to become regular part-timers than men, and half of men in their 30s and 40s want to be regular-part timers now or in the future. Most part-timers need to be regular part-timers who are not required to work overtime and subject to transfers.  A report issued by Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2002 has stressed the necessity of treating part-time workers and full-time workers equally. In this regard, regular part-timers are a typical example of a way that equality and balance can be reached.



Enlargement of Dispatched Workers and Labor Law


Dispatched workers are indirectly employed as far as the relationship to their places of work is concerned, and many of them are employed for limited terms.  Owing to the harsh employment situation over the last few years, the working conditions for them have deteriorated (wages are falling and employees must work in crowded schedules for long hours) and the employment guarantee is becoming increasingly unstable.  With this type of employment in particular, there is a pronounced negative impact on the typical registered dispatched workers.  The reasons are found in the structure of dispatched labor:  (1) dissociation of employer responsibility, (2) the business-transaction nature of the dispatched labor relationship, (3) the limited scope of responsibilities shouldered by the temporary employer under labor law, and (4) the lack of an equal labor-management relationship between temporary employers and dispatched workers.  As the price competition intensifies, employers have increasing expectations for dispatched workers because it is easy to lower their pay, and employers seek relaxed restrictions on working periods and assignable jobs.  But creating a sound labor market will require, in addition to limits on the use of dispatched workers:  (1) increasing the responsibilities of temporary employers (employment responsibility and joint responsibility with the temporary employer), (2) prohibiting discrimination and guaranteed equal treatment, (3) to create a rule requiring worker dispatching contract that lease the right of command, and whose intent and purposes should guarantee the labor-related human rights of people, and (4) to establish a labor-management relationship between temporary employers and dispatched workers that puts them on an equal footing.



The Change of Work and Flexible Working Hours System

Atsushi SATO

In the process of responding to changing market conditions, Japanese companies are now introducing a new type of human resource management (HRM) system consisting of flexible working hours and a performance-oriented wage system.  The flexible working hours system allows workers to allocate working hours in accordance to their lifestyles, and to adjust the pace of their work to their needs.

In this paper, the author analyzes the relationship between recent trends of working styles and changing HRM in terms of a flexible working hours system.  In particular, discretionary work system (sairyo rodo seido) for white-collar workers engaging in “discretionary activities” can be understood as a kind of contract work, because this system allows all workers to manage their working hours for themselves instead of working under a form of rigid tine management.  Under the discretionary work system, evolution towards a performance-oriented HRM system will make it possible to shift workers from working by the hours to working on a piece rate.

This paper examines the circumstances and problems of this shift, making clear some policy implications.

Section 2 refers to the characteristics of white-collar workers engaging in “discretionary activities” under a performance-oriented HRM system.  This can be characterized as having employees on one side and contract workers on the other.

Next, Section 3 considers a context in which a discretionary work system works in harmony with a performance-oriented HRM system, using some data and fact findings from recent research.

Then Section 4 explores the management mode by which white-collar workers engaging in sales activities are involved in a performance-oriented management system.

Section 5 introduces the SE division’s case study we conducted in the same way as Section 4.

Section 6 discusses some policy implications, pointing out that the following measures are essential for the flexible working hours system to be more actively utilized:  (1) clearly setting targets concerning the quality and volume of work and deadlines, (2) establishing mechanisms which will cultivate the ability of managers to engage in a performance-oriented management system.



NPO-type Labor Unionsfrom the perspective of Japanese small local unions

Yusuke FUKUI

Japanese small local unions, often called ‘Community Unions’, organize each individual worker who is in trouble with their employers.  Such unions are known to be remarkably active segments of the Japanese labor movement today, in contrast to most big Japanese trade unions.

In this paper, the author asserts that these local unions are working like NPOs (Non Profit Organizations).  Based on a survey carried out at eight local unions in Tokyo and Kyusyu in 2000, also the author points out that even non-members are provided with chances to access to these unions.  As such, these local unions can be viewed as public good, which are available universally to every person in the locale and the unions can be said to be playing a public role through their activities.

It seems as if the unions are able to do the following :  (1) promote connections between the public sphere of labor movements and other ‘new social movements’-such as those that involve human rights activists, feminists, ecologists, and so on ; (2)make humanistic ties among local workers and construct labor-management relationships within communities ; and (3) effect the policies of big trade unions and national centers in Japan.



Public Pension Systems and De-destitution

―A Crisis in Social Democratic Regime?


Esping-Andersen asserted that social security systems prevent a worker from commodifying labor force.  But, de-commodification doesn’t catch the gender bias of poverty rate.

I construct the de-destitution index about social security pension.

De-destitution index is additive scores. It includes following items:  universality of benefit levels pensions, contributions of worker/contributions of employer, minimum benefit levels (minimum pension level/average wages of manufacturing industry workers), maximum benefit levels (maximum pension level / average wages of manufacturing industry workers), indexation of pension benefits, pension receipt qualification.  Especially, pension universality and pension receipt qualifications are included in this index to describe the gender bias of poverty rate.

Based on Pooled-Time-Series Regression Analysis, it was found that the scores are decreasing in social democratic regime countries because of population ageing. Demographic trends are probably more decisive factors in retrenchment of pension benefits than in economic globalization.

Nevertheless, convergence towards a residual pension model wouldn’t happen in social democratic regime countries, because basic pension structures have been maintained until now.  If the partially funded parts of pensions are broadened in the future, these pension systems would converge to a residual pension model.



The Japanese Long-Term Care Insurance SystemA Social Work Perspective


The objective of this paper is to examine whether or not the Japanese Long-Term Care Insurance System provides the insured with reliable services.  First, I looked closely into the Insurance System.  As a result of careful study, I found that the current system proved not to be a mere expansion of the Social Welfare System.  It was built on the Medical Insurance System.  Secondly, I reviewed the Long-Term Care Insurance System which is based on Medical Insurance and found problems from the following three points of view of Social Work:  individuality in daily life, empowerment, and recognition of potential needs and prevention.  Close examination shows that system does not have schemes to deliver care services regarded as necessary.  Therefore, it can be said that the current system does not provide services adequate to maintain daily life and support self-reliance.

The principal cause of this situation is a mismatch between the expected care insurance system and that which was actually adopted.  Discussion about systematic reform will only lead to further confusion if we remain unaware of this mismatch.



The Worker Dispatching Law:  Its Problems and Perspectives

Toyomi FUJII

The article examines the defects of the Worker Dispatching Law through the author’s own experience as a dispatched worker and a union official of J Union which has a great number of dispatched workers among its members and has been dealing with their claims.  For a decade from the time of enactment of the Law in 1985, dispatched workers benefited from relatively good working conditions due to Japanese economic prosperity.  However, since the middle of the 1990s they have undergone hardships.  Increasingly employment has become less stable and illegal interviews by corporations where they would possibly be sent make the situation problematic.

Four cases which J Union successfully negotiated with the employers of dispatched workers in trouble are demonstrated.  These cases indicate vulnerability of dispatched workers and inefficacy of the amended Act of 1999 in protecting them.  In order to improve their situation and to secure their rights, measures must be established to realize their equal treatment with permanent staff.  Their own concerns and higher participation in trade unions would be also required.  Trade unionism in general should treat the issue more seriously.



Inception, Decline and Proposed Reconstruction of the Chinese Farmers’ Pension System

Wenliang WANG

The Chinese farmers’ pension insurance system formally started at the beginning of the 1990s.  It has been operating for about ten years, but the system has been in decline for some time.  Whatever the cause, the system now needs revision. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the defects the current system, and to present the following measures as proposals for the reconstruction of the system.

(1) Do a radical reform of the mechanism of the current system.  Especially it is proposed to set up a co-operative for the premium fund in order to ensure a sound financial resource.

(2) In the future the government should ensure sufficient financial resources to meet the needs of every region of the country.  In the prosperous areas, farmers’ pension insurance must be switched to compulsory participation.  In the poorer areas, the present system should be abolished.

(3) In the prosperous areas where compulsory participation is proposed, government fiscal investment should be ensured through the enactment of relevant laws and regulations.



The Transfiguration and Evaluation of the Lifestyle of Male Skilled Workers in Postwar Japan


This paper aims to define the image of male skilled workers in the 1950s-1970s by examining the life histories of former and active compositors, who have worked in small printing companies in Tokyo.  When we examine former attitudes toward life and work, it becomes clear that lifestyles have changed considerably.

In the past, workers established networks, which allowed them to move from one company to the next without constraints, and took pleasure in activities such as drinking, gambling and paying for sexual services.  Their moving from one company to the next was a symbol of their skillfulness, as well as their slovenliness and thriftlessness.  These two aspects were recognized to be closely related. Regarding their attitude towards gender issues, it appears they were influenced by two contradictory ideologies:  one being that the man should be the breadwinner, and the other being that the wife should engage in paid work.

However, during Japan’s high-growth period, such lifestyles began to lose their acceptance by management organizations, trade unions, and even compositors themselves.  Although collective movements were not far-reaching in their efforts to deny such a lifestyle, it is noteworthy that both trade unions and workers themselves criticized not just the working life of the compositors, but rather their lifestyle on the whole.



A Change of Relationships between Original-contractors and Subcontractors in Building Industry under Depression

Takashi KOSEKI, Kayoko MURAMATSU and Atsutami YAMAMOTO

We will discuss the current relationship between original-contractors and subcontractors in the building industry based upon our research, which clarifies that the collapse of the “bubble economy” at the beginning of the 1990s has reduced the market scale, and put the building industry under severe pressure from competition.

Formerly, subcontractors used to undertake work continuously from particular original-contractors in order to stabilize their business.  On the other hand, original-contractors could nurture and make exclusive use of excellent subcontractors. Most original-contractors organized their favorite subcontractors so that they were given work by priority.  Both of them enjoyed this close long-term relationship.

However, such a close relationship has been replaced with an open one, which places a priority on price competition and quality in the open market.  As the competition has intensified and the pressure of cost-cutting has grown stronger, original-contractors have maximized profits by giving subcontractors orders at unreasonably low prices, and subcontractors have offered lower prices than their rivals. Recently original-contractors often refuse to pay subcontractors fees for added construction. Original-contractors have cut costs related to construction, which has brought a state of confusion and annoyed workers.  In the end, this cut-throat competition has not only weakened many subcontractors, but was cut down workers’ wages pitilessly and deteriorated working conditions.



The Development of Social Policies for the Elderly in Bologna, Italy


According to the recent comparative welfare state theory, Italy is classified as a “Mediterranean country” and her institutional level of social services are “remarkably low”.  The reasons for this low evaluation of Italian welfare can be explained by (1) the gap between north and south, (2) decentralization of power, (3) a lack of public data.  On the contrary, there are some interesting social policies being implemented on the regional level, and especially in the northern part of Italy.

This paper discusses the case of Bologna, in Emilia-Romagna, which has dealt with ageing problems since the 1960s, and adopted a strategy of deinstitutionalization for the care services for elderly people.

I examine the three issues below:

(1) Demographic changes of the ageing society in Italy.

(2) The history of social policies for elderly people in the city of Bologna/ Emilia Romagna from the 1960s to today.

(3) The current residential care programs in some areas of Bologna.

As a result of the analysis regarding these issues, I attempt to show the advanced and experimental nature of the programs that help to care for elderly people in Bologna.



The Gender Structure of Households and the Measurement of Poverty


This article has two main objectives.  Firstly, how to measure “poverty” is addressed in terms of gender.  Poverty is analyzed by focusing on households with a female householder and on households with male-female couples, because these tend to have the common factor of low female income.  For the purposes of this argument, it is important to recognize the household within a gender-sensitive framework.  This study does not assume an equal distribution of resources between all household members, but it defines the household from the viewpoint of “cooperative conflict” and an intra-household income distribution system.

The second objective of this article is to point out the importance of conducting poverty measurements while considering both the incomes of each household member and the income of the household as a whole.  What is critical in assessing poverty is how much one can support him/herself on his/her own income, taking into account wages, benefits and so on.  At the same time, however, it is wrong to disregard the fact that people share their incomes with other family members.  In the case of two-earner households, it is appropriate to equally weigh the contribution of each partner rather than giving preference to either one.  Such measurements of poverty may well illuminate the existence of individuals and households confronting low income and poverty under the lasting recession and serve as an essential tool for assessing the effects of social policies to solve these problems.